UK’s Cameron faces slavery reparation calls in Jamaica

Jamaican leader Portia Simpson-Miller raises slavery reparations at meetings with Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron.

KINGSTON, JAMAICA (SEPTEMBER 29, 2015) (UK POOL) – British prime Minister David Cameron is under pressure to deal with the issue of slavery reparations when he speaks to the Jamaican parliament on Wednesday (September 30).

Cameron arrived for a trip to the island country and nearby Grenada on Tuesday and was confronted with reparations by his Jamaican counterpart Portia Simpson-Miller.

Speaking at a bilateral meeting on Wednesday (September 30), Simpson-Miller said: “I brought to the Prime Minister’s attention the issue of reparations, indicating that Jamaica is involved in a process under the auspices of the Caribbean community to engage the UK on the matter, while we are aware of the obvious sensitivities involved.”

Cameron, the first British Prime Minister to visit Jamaica for 14 years, aims to strengthen trade ties with the former British colony.

But Britain is facing calls for billions of pounds (dollars) in reparations for slavery dating back centuries. Countless thousands of slaves were taken from Africa on British ships to the Caribbean, many to work as forced labour on sugar plantations.

Downing Street said Cameron does not believe reparations or apologies for slavery are the right approach, but the issue is set to overshadow his trip to the island, where he will address the Jamaican parliament later on Wednesday.

Cameron did not address the reparations issue when he responded to Simpson-Miller’s comment.

But he did announce an agreement to build a new prison in Kingston to house Jamaicans sentenced to jail in Britain.

“We’ve agreed to work together to build a new prison here in Kingston, improving the ability of the Jamaican criminal justice system to deal with crime and also enabling the United Kingdom to return criminals to serve their sentence,” said Cameron.

More than 600 Jamaican nationals are currently in UK jails but cannot be deported because of Jamaica’s poor prison conditions, according to British media reports.